Beauty Comes Startled

Rubbing
by Stephen Dunn, from Different Hours

"Anything that you rub long enough becomes beautiful."
—Jim Opinsky

I once saw a painter smear black paint
on a bad blue sky,
then rub it in until that lie of hers

was gone. I've seen men polish cars
so hard they've given off light.
As a child I kept a stone in my pocket,

thumb and forefinger in collusion
with water and wind,
caressing it day and night.

I've begun a few things with an eraser,
waited for friction's spark.
I've learned that sometimes severe

can lead to truer, ever true.
But few things human can stand
to be rubbed for long—I know this

and can't stop. If beauty comes
it comes startled, hiding scars,
out of what barely can be endured.